As you make the transition from summer to fall, it is easy to switch on the heat without giving it any thought. However, there are a few important things to check before turning on your heater for the first time this year. In order to ensure a safe home with a well-maintained furnace, it is best practice to take the following steps before you start running the heat.
1. Is there a smell? When you turn on your heater for the first time, it is not uncommon to smell burning dust. As dust can settle on the heating components during the warm months of the year, it is inevitable that it is going to burn off when the unit heats up. You can open a window or two to get rid of the odor. If the smell persists for more than a few hours, consider changing the filters and cleaning the ducts. If there is an actual fire or smoke coming from the system, turn it off right away. Extinguish the flames or get out of the house. Call 9-1-1 or the applicable emergency number in your area.
Pro-Tip: Schedule annual maintenance on your heater to identify an mend any issues before it gets too cold. Knowing there is a problem now, will allow you weeks or more before the weather takes a prolonged dip downward.
2. What is the current carbon monoxide detector reading? If you don’t already have a carbon monoxide detector, purchase and install one. If the alarm goes off or has a reading over 30, turn off the furnace right away and call a technician, as there may be a dangerous condition. Open the windows and avoid turning on the heat again until a professional has assessed the situation. Some technicians even recommend leaving the house altogether if the reading is over 30.
3. Is the furnace making any unusual noises? Does it seem like the furnace is struggling to run normally? Are there excessive noises or airflow? Any of these conditions may indicate that the furnace needs a tune up. Is the furnace not blowing warm air? The first thing to check is the breaker. Make sure that the unit is receiving power. Some electric heat pumps have a defrost condition in which the unit runs through a defrost cycle when the temperature is under 40 degrees. Once this cycle has run its course, the heating should turn on again.
Once you have gone through the necessary things to check before turning on your heater for the first time and have followed your common sense about its condition, you should have a pretty good idea whether or not the furnace is running normally. Any appliance that heats up has the potential to be dangerous. As such, it is always best to be safe when it comes to your furnace. When you check it thoroughly early in the season, you can take care of issues as needed before it gets too cold. There are also things you can do beforehand to reduce your heating bill before it gets too high.